There exists a current paradox of philanthropy and the state in China: a stronger social sector accompanied with growth in philanthropy is desired, but such strength and growth must also contend with the state’s own policy agenda and desire to limit aspects of advocacy and civil society typically associated with the third sector. This special volume seeks to explore these state-society dynamics, in terms of the environment for philanthropy and the behaviors of philanthropic actors within this environment. The purpose of our article is multifold. The first is to provide the intellectual and empirical contexts in which our collective research is situated. We do so by providing analyzing the state of the existing research and the broad contours of philanthropic activity in China. The second is to situate our initiative within the development of China’s own complex philanthropic studies and philanthropic community. The third is to introduce the scholarship that composes this special volume and its collective contribution. We then provide original data and analysis about corporate philanthropic activity and foundations in China that complements the work of our collaborators. Finally, we consider the implications of the special volume for our broader understanding of philanthropy and suggest potential avenues of a future research agenda.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anand, P. U., & Hayling, C. (2014). Levers for change–philanthropy in select South East Asian countries., Social Insight Research Series Singapore: Lien Centre for Social Innovation Reports.
Breen, O. B., Dunn, A., & Sidel, M. (Eds.). (2016). Comparative perspectives on state regulation and self-regulation in the nonprofit sector. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Brinkerhoff, D. W. (2004). The enabling environment for implementing the millennium development goals: Government actions to support NGOs. Retrieved from www.rti.org/pubs/Brinkerhoff_pub.pdf.
Center for Global Prosperity. (2015). The index of philanthropic freedom 2015. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.hudson.org/files/publications/2015.06.15IndexofPhilanthropicFreedom2015.pdf.
Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society. (2018). Doing good index 2018: Maximizing Asia’s potential. Retrieved from https://caps.org/our-research/doing-good-index-2018/.
Chen, J. (2010). Transnational environmental movement: Impacts on the green civil society in China. Journal of Contemporary China, 19(65), 503–523.
Cooper, C. M. (2006). ‘This is our way in’: The civil society of environmental NGOs in South-West China 1. Government and Opposition, 41(1), 109–136.
Council on Foundations (2018) China. https://www.cof.org/content/china.
Coutts. (2015). Million Dollar donors report. Retrieved from https://philanthropy.coutts.com/.
Deng, G. (2010). The hidden rules governing China’s unregistered NGOs: management and consequences. China Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Greater China., 10(1), 103–206.
Deng, G. (2015). The influence of elite philanthropy on NGO development in China. Asian Studies Review, 39(4), 554–570.
Dickson, B. (2016). The dictator’s dilemma: The Chinese Communist Party’s strategy for survival. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Duquette, N. (2016). Do tax incentives affect charitable contributions? Evidence from public charities’ reported revenues. Journal of Public Economics, 137, 51–69.
Estes, R. J. (1998). Emerging Chinese foundations: The role of private philanthropy in the new China. Washington, D.C.: Aspen Institute.
Gao, Y. (2009). Corporate social performance in China: Evidence from large companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(1), 23–35.
Guha-Sapir, D., Hoyois, P., Wallemacq, P., & Below, R. (2016). Annual disaster statistical review 2016: The numbers and trends. Brussels—Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Retrieved from http://emdat.be/sites/default/files/adsr_2016.pdf.
Guo, C. (2012). Review of Chinese Civil Society Research. In Presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Harling, A. & Tung, C. (2017). Seven Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Chinese Philanthropy. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jun/28/seven-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-chinese-philanthropy.
Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. (2015). China’s most generous 2015. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy Ash Center.
Hildebrandt, T. (2011). The political economy of social organization registration in China. The China Quarterly, 208, 970–989.
Ho, P. (2001). Greening without conflict? Environmentalism, NGOs and civil society in China. Development and Change, 32(5), 893–921.
Hsu, C. (2010). Beyond civil society: An organizational perspective on state–NGO relations in the People’s Republic of China. Journal of Civil Society, 6(3), 259–277.
Hsu, J. (2014). Chinese Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society: A review of the literature. Geography Compass, 8(2), 98–110.
Hsu, C., & Jiang, Y. (2015). An institutional approach to Chinese NGOs: State alliance versus State avoidance resource strategies. The China Quarterly, 221, 100–122.
Huang, C. C., Deng, G., Wang, Z., & Edwards, R. L. (Eds.). (2014). China’s nonprofit sector: Progress and challenges. Piscataway: Transaction Publishers.
Johnson, P. D., & Saich, T. (2017). Values and vision: Perspectives on philanthropy in 21st century China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School.
Lee, R. (2009). Modernizing charity law in China. Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal, 18, 347.
Li, S., Song, X., & Wu, H. (2015). Political connection, ownership structure, and corporate philanthropy in China: A strategic-political perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 129(2), 399–411.
Lin, L. W. (2010). Corporate social responsibility in China: Window dressing or structural change. Berkeley Journal of International Law, 28, 64.
Ministry of Civil Affairs. (2012a). 2012 social services statistical report. Beijing, China: Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Ministry of Civil Affairs. (2012b). Selected regulations standardizing the behavior of foundations (Trial). Retrieved from The Central Government of People’s Republic of China: http://www.icnl.org/research/library/files/China/china%20charity.pdf.
Ministry of Civil Affairs. (2016). 2016 Social Services Statistical Report. Beijing, China: Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Moore, D., & Rutzen, D. (2011). Legal framework for global philanthropy: Barriers and opportunities. International Journal for Not-for-Profit Law, 13, 1–2.
Morton, K. (2005). The emergence of NGOs in China and their transnational linkages: implications for domestic reform. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 59(4), 519–532.
Oi, J. C., Rozelle, S., & Zhou, X. (Eds.). (2010). Growing pains: Tensions and opportunity in China’s transformation. Stanford: Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.
Payton, R. L. (1988). Philanthropy: Voluntary action for the public good. New York: American Council on Education/Macmillan.
Renminwang (2019). China Registered Social Organizations Surpass 810,000. February 11, Retrieved July 6, 2019, from http://society.people.com.cn/n1/2019/0211/c1008-30616800.html.
Ru, J., & Ortolano, L. (2009). Development of citizen-organized environmental NGOs in China. Voluntas International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 20(2), 141–168.
Salamon, L. M. (1992). America’s Nonprofit Sector: A Primer. New York: Foundation Center.
Salamon, L. M., & Toepler, S. (2000) The influence of the legal environment on the development of the nonprofit sector. Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies Working Paper Series.
Schwartz, J. (2004). Environmental NGOs in China: Roles and limits. Pacific Affairs, 77(1), 28–49.
Shieh, S., & Deng, G. (2011). An emerging civil society: The impact of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake on grass-roots associations in China. The China Journal, 65, 181–194.
Simon, K. W. (2009). Regulation of civil society in China: Necessary changes after the Olympic Games and the Sichuan earthquake. Fordham International Law Journal, 32(3), 943–987.
Simon, K. W. (2010). Two steps forward one step back—Developments in the regulation of civil society organizations in China. International Law Journal of Civil Society Law, 7(4), 51.
Simon, K. W. (2011). The regulation of civil society organizations in China. International Journal of Civil Society Law, 9(1), 55–84.
Simon, K. W. (2013). Civil Society in China: The legal framework from ancient times to the “New Reform Era”. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Song, L., Wang, J., Yao, S., & Chen, J. (2012). Market reactions and corporate philanthropy: A case study of the Wenchuan earthquake in China. Journal of Contemporary China, 21(74), 299–315.
Spires, A. J. (2011). Contingent symbiosis and civil society in an authoritarian state: Understanding the survival of China’s grassroots NGOs. American Journal of Sociology, 117(1), 1–45.
Su, J., & He, J. (2010). Does giving lead to getting? Evidence from Chinese private enterprises. Journal of Business Ethics, 93(1), 73–90.
Tang, S. Y., & Zhan, X. (2008). Civic environmental NGOs, civil society, and democratisation in China. The Journal of Development Studies, 44(3), 425–448.
Teets, J. C. (2014). Civil society under authoritarianism: The China model. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (2018). China Philanthropy Law Report (2018). Retrieved from http://www.chinafile.com/ngo/latest/icnl-releases-2018-china-philanthropy-law-report.
The International Center for Not-for-Profit-Law (2018). China Philanthropy Law Report, http://www.icnl.org/research/Philanthropy/China.html.
Thindwa, J., Monico, C., & Reuben, W. (2003). Enabling environments for civic engagement in PRSP countries. Social Development Notes, 82, 1–5.
Toepler, S. (2018). Toward a comparative understanding of foundations. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(13), 1956–1971.
Transparency International. (2017). Corruption Perception Index 2017. Retrieved from https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017.
Tuan, Y. (2012). Annual Report on China’s Philanthropic Development. Beijing, China: Social Sciences Academic Press.
Unger, J. (2008). Associations and the Chinese state: Contested spaces. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe.
United Nations Development Programme. (2015). Unleashing the potential of philanthropy in China. Beijing, China, http://www.cn.undp.org/content/china/en/home/library/poverty/unleashing-the-potential-of-philanthropy-in-china-/.
Van Til, J. (1990). Critical issues in American philanthropy: Strengthening theory and practice. Glenview, IL: AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy.
Von Hippel, T., & Pissler, K. (2010). Nonprofit organizations in the People’s Republic of China. In K. Hopt & T. Von Hippel (Eds.), Comparative corporate governance of non-profit organizations (pp. 428–478). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511712128.014.
Wang, G. (2006). Philanthropy in China. Beijing, China: Intercontinental Press.
Wang, L., Graddy, E., & Morgan, D. (2011). The development of community-based foundations in East Asia. Public Management Review, 13(8), 1155–1178.
Wang, M., & Xu, Y. (2010). Foundations in China. The China Nonprofit Review, 2(1), 19–51.
Yang, T. (2014). Blue Book of Philanthropy: Annual Report on China’s Philanthropy Development. Beijing, China: Beijing Social Sciences Academic Press.
Ye, C., & Onyx, J. (2015). Development paths, problems and counter measures of Chinese civil society organizations. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 7, 2.
Zheng, Y., & Fewsmith, J. (Eds.). (2008). China’s opening society: The non-state sector and governance. London: Routledge.
Zhou, M. (2018). “Charitable giving rises on mainland,” China Daily, September 24, 2018, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201809/24/WS5ba82734a310c4cc775e7c10.html.
We thank the external funders of the Initiative on Philanthropy in China, The Henry Luce Foundation and Ford Foundation. We recognize our home institutions during our 6 years of collaboration on this project, including: Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business; the University of Maryland; and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. We also express appreciation for advice and support from a diversity of close colleagues in China, including especially: the China Philanthropy Research Institute of Beijing Normal University; the China Foundation Center; and the Institute for Philanthropy at Tsinghua University. We thank our research assistants: Tian Yuan, He Lijun, Wang Qun, Zhongsheng Wu, Kainan Gao, and Rong Shi. Finally, we thank participants in five conferences and meetings we organized between 2013 and 2015 in Indianapolis and Beijing, as well as panelists on the Initiative at the 2016 ISTR conference.
This study was funded by the Ford Foundation (0135-0108) and Henry Luce Foundation.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Bies, A., Kennedy, S. The State and the State of the Art on Philanthropy in China. Voluntas 30, 619–633 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-019-00142-3
- Corporate philanthropy
- Civil society